- 2 Mar 2010 2:00 AM
Hungary has a longstanding problem with stray and unwanted dogs, something all too obvious to Veterinary students at Szent Istvan University. For Anouska and Caroline it became unbearable to live and function in Budapest without doing anything to help, however small and seemingly insignificant the drop in the ocean might be.
Additionally, the financial crisis brings hard times and with hard times follows even more misery and despair to the homeless animal population of and the number of homeless animals has trippeled during the last year.
The girls started planning the Budadogs project Christmas 08`and the following summer their first dog travelled to a new home in Norway. Budadogs has now been up and running for 18 months and in that time the girls have re homed 93 dogs and they currently have an additional 51 dogs in their care.
Their focus is primarily on dogs in absolute danger of euthanasia; dogs that will not even make it to shelters or communal kennel fascilities. In the past they have taken on dogs from other organizations, from the Budapest city pound also known as Illatos utca and they also take on a lot of the strays rescued by students or handed over to the University small and large animal clinics. At the moment the majority of their dogs come from Heves and in most cases Budadogs is these dogs last chance.
To rehome a dog is not as easy as it may seem. It is important to obtain as much information as possible regarding the dog while it is in the projects care. Only when the girls feel that they know the dog thoroughly well via their fostering program do they prepare it for re-homing and they are very particular about their re-homing procedure which involves much communication with both potential adopter and foster-parent in order to ensure that the home is the right one for the dog. The majority of the Budadogs are rehomed to Norway. In order to travel there a dog must go through a vaccination procedure that takes 4-6 months.
During this time the dogs stay in foster care with student volunteers, a crucial aspect to the project without which Budadogs would not function to any extent remotely similar to what it does. Although primarily veterinary students quite obviously, more and more medicine and business students have started to get involved in the Budadogs fostering program. The nationalities of the students vary with a large number of Irish and Norwegian volunteers, but dogs have also been fostered by students coming from France, Israel, Sweden and Germany. Over 100 students have been involved in the fostering process to date.
Some of the volunteers are what Anouska and Caroline call “Hard-core fosterparents” meaning they take on difficult cases, often several dogs at the time and work hard and tough rehabilitation projects. Others want to find out whether they would have time for their own dog while studying, for which fostering a Budadog is ideal. The time and effort spent fostering is crucial to the Budadogs project and the girls are extremely grateful for the kindness, willingness, patience and devotion offered by the fosterparent on top of their studies. At the moment there are 51 dogs in fostering this semester.
Another extremely important aspect of the project is the animals health. Budadogs are very rigid regarding laboratory testing and medical treatment of their dogs. Diseases endemic to Hungary are routinely tested for on all dogs upon arrival into the project and subsequently treated. After researching the important endemic diseases and communicating with the University Parasitology and Internal Medicine departments they routinely test for Babesia, Borrellia and Dirofilaria/Microfilaria.To date they have had 4 cases of positive Microfilaria, 2 cases of symptomatic Lyme Borrelliosis and 1 case of Babesiosis, highlighting the importance of testing and treatment.
The girls suggest that anyone with dogs bought or adopted in Hungary who haven`t tested their dogs should do these tests and treat prophylactically thereafter.
The stories of rescue, rehabilitation and happy endings are many. The stories of heartache, hopelessness and despair even more. When one dog is saved hundereds are left behind and such is the never-ending cycle of a broken, hardly existing animal welfare system. Where there are suffering people you are guaranteed mistreated animals and the deeper you dig, the dirtier it gets. Budadogs is a mere drop in the ocean. It hardly scratches the surface of animal welfare gone-wrong.
Budadogs try to shine a light on individual droplets. Idealistic indeed, but what are we without ideals? Or without visions or the belief in something greater than ourselves? If only for a mere few individuals, it is in fact possible to make a difference. And that difference can be the difference between life and death.